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Saturday night at Upstairs on the Square

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Restaurants & Bars

Saturday night at Upstairs on the Square

sushimom | Feb 2, 2003 06:48 PM

Bottom line: Not a rave, but pretty good.
We arrived just as the fireman were leaving and the diners and staff were getting resettled. A smoke alarm had triggered an evacuation for about 25 minutes.
The food (upstairs in the Soiree Room): Well done, nicely presented, but nothing extraordinary or exciting. Nice is a word I'd use a lot to describe it, much like my experiences at Upstairs at the Pudding. I had the potato gnocchi with duck, olives, and a red wine reduction to start, followed by the veal chop with polenta and fried artichokes. Both dishes were fine and the veal chop was particularly delicious. The watercress soup with lobster was very green and watercressy, but needed salt, and the lobster was a tough nubbin. The Maine diver scallops were good in a competent sort of way. The cheese course was really excellent - thanks to chowhounds for the suggestion. Vinnie, the "maitre de fromage", is a super nice, cheese obsessed man, who was by far the most memorable server we encountered, of many (more below). Two in our party shared a plate of 8 cheeses and they were very very happy. The desserts were a high point, with a delightful "flight of cremes" = a vanilla creme brulee, an espresso cardamom flan, and a chocolate pot de creme with espresso ice. The chocolate souffle cake was done as well as that dessert is ever done, and the prune/Earl Grey ice cream that came with it was great. Before dessert we were served a complimentary lemon ice that was more like a lemon sherbet, with a hint of creaminess. That was probably the best thing I put in my mouth all night. The dessert chef, Dina Sonenshein, has raised the desserts a whole notch above what was served at the old Upstairs. The wine list was extensive and interesting, especially for all of the wines they have by the taste, by the glass, and in half or whole bottles.
The atmosphere: Boisterous would be an understatement. It was so loud! I think this is partly due to the mirrored ceiling and the absence of drapery, although the tablecloths extend to the ground, entangling one's legs but not sucking up much sound. Partly it was caused by a plethora of birthday celebrations (in fact we were celebrating a birthday too), including some very large tables prone to breaking out in song and shouting to one another. I think that one of these tables managed to break not one but 3 glasses in the course of one dinner (judging by the crashes and squeals), and their waiter bumbled a bottle of champagne, shooting the cork across the room and the champagne and the bottle wound up on the carpet. Memorable. There is a huge number of waitstaff, which makes the room more crowded than necessary. I kept thinking what a super room it would be on a quiet night, but I don't know if that ever occurs. It has great romantic potential, but on Saturday night the din was deafening.

One last atmospere note: the stairwells and hallways are painted a deep bright red, with purple trim. This is somewhat amusing on the way up to the soiree room, but when one member of my group returned to the table after visiting the ladies' room, she remarked that she'd just taken a trip down the birth canal. She was right. The long narrow red red hallway is quite evocative!

Go for the cheese and the desserts!

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